General Writing

Ten Writing Nightmares

This Halloween, take a moment to consider the writing nightmares you’ve had or are afraid of experiencing. The following are ten.


1) Misspelling the name of the person you’re addressing in an email or cover letter.

2) Producing an embarrassing typo for a word like ‘batch,’ ‘feckless,’ or ‘public.’

3) Putting the finishing touches on a ten-page essay, only to re-read the essay question and realize you didn’t answer it.

4) Repeatedly misusing ‘matriculate,’ ‘genuflect,’ ‘obfuscate,’ or any other multi-syllabic word derived from Latin that was supposed to make you sound smart.

5) That brilliant manifesto/sonnet/one-act play you wrote last night? What it looks like the next morning.

6) Laboring on a 2500-word paper due in less than 24 hours and based on volumes of source material you didn’t read.

7) Forgetting to delete something from your first draft, such as a note you leave for yourself (“Need to fudge the data more”).

8) Basing the central argument of your article on a logical fallacy or on your misreading of another person’s work.

9) Running out of ideas.

10) Hitting publish on a blog post before it’s

Where do you lie with lay and lie?

When Bob Dylan sings “Lay, lady, lay, lay across my big brass bed,” his lyrics are ungrammatical. But aside from a handful of people who take perverse joy in pointing these things out, no one cares. After all, he’s Bob Dylan and has artistic license on his side. Also, many people don’t understand the difference between ‘lay’ and ‘lie’ anyway.

What about you? Do you know the difference? Unless you’re a famous singer-songwriter or are writing dialogue (in speech people mix up ‘lay’ and ‘lie’ a lot, so it’s more forgivable), you need to know the difference. Because even though some people won’t notice, to others you’ll look less professional. Getting it right is just one more way of looking like you know what you’re doing, especially when you’re writing for a reputable publication in your field.

I came across a handy chart on this random Tumblr blog that shows the difference between ‘lay’ and ‘lie.’

Lay vs. Lie

Still confused? Lay aside your worries and lie down for a nice, long nap while a professional writer handles these things for you.

– Hila

Write What You Know?

When you’re advised to “write what you know,” it’s not so much an absolute rule as a word of caution. Whether you’re crafting the copy for an ad or writing a short story, it’s crucial to have self-awareness when using the voice of characters who come from a background quite different than yours.

This funny Onion advice column from a couple of years back highlights the point beautifully: Ask An Elderly Black Woman As Depicted By A Sophomore Creative Writing Major.

Look over what you’ve written. Have others look it over. Does it sound authentic? Or is it, beyond all hope, cringeworthy and fake?

– Hila

Are you using credible Internet sources in your writing?

Abe Lincoln's advice :)

The Internet contains a wealth of information on virtually every topic. Whether or not that information is accurate is another matter.

You may be searching for different sources to improve the credibility of your business website or strengthen a point you’re making in an article. How can you increase your chances of using credible Internet sources?

The following are some points to consider:


Website promotion: How to comment on blogs without sounding like a spambot

Imagine you’re at a cocktail party, and you spot someone you’d love to talk to. This person is a future collaborator, client, employer, mentor or friend. You want to leave a good impression on them.

So what’s your next move? Do you:

A) Walk up to them, throw your business card in their face, and walk away?
B) Walk up to them, say, “Hi, you’re an interesting person,” throw your business card in their face, and walk away?
C) Wait for them to look away before slipping your business card into their pants pocket or purse?
D) Pick the right moment to approach them, politely introduce yourself, and participate meaningfully and respectfully in any public discussion they’re currently having?


7 ways to make your writing less stiff and unnatural

Is your writing mechanical and stiff? Does it resemble the Tin Man, trying to speak through rusted jaws?

It doesn’t matter if you’re writing an informal post for your blog or an article explaining complex technical concepts. What you write needs to flow and have vitality. The following are seven ways to make your writing less stiff and unnatural.